keen to make much of it, usually rendering it as something like ‘a writingcase at his side’, or perhaps ‘a writing kit at his loins’.
Let us take amoment to see what it actually means, for it will become a key marker formy argument concerning masculinity in prophetic texts.As for Ezekiel 9,
is one of those Ezekelian hapax legomena,to which commentators a little too rapidly attribute the meaning of –perhaps – a writing case or inkpot or tablet, albeit with the flimsiest of evidence. It may be worth asking why commentators make nothing of thistext, preferring a neutral sense for a hapax legomenon like
, whenin other cases – such as the explicit texts of Ezekiel 16 and 22-23 – theoverwhelmingly male coterie of biblical scholars is all too ready to espy inhapax legomenae references to women’s genitals. Is it because thesexualising the textual bodies of women is a way of objectifying andthereby disempowering them, while the textual bodies of men must notbe so treated? If so, then my reading is an explicit attempt to sexualise,objectify and thereby disempower textual male bodies.
So, in light of what follows, I suggest that here we have a tool, or more specifically astylus of the one who follows. And he is the
, simply a scribe, onewho writes texts and does things with numbers; the word is the qalpresent participle of the verb
, to write and number.
isthen the tool of the writer, the scribal stylus.
But what about
? The preposition
is obvious, but letus stay with its basic sense of ‘on’ or even ‘in’. And
is themasculine singular possessive of
. Note the dual form, for thatwill soon become important.
is supposed, according to lexica, todesignate the muscles binding the abdomen to the lower limbs – abs, aswe might call them in our parlance. In this respect, it is a parallel term to
, the section of the body between the ribs and the hip bones.But there is one curious, usually unexplained feature of both terms, hintedat in the brilliant older translation as ‘loins’: both words end in the raredual form. As any student of introductory Hebrew knows, two classes of
Commentators are spectacular in missing the importance of this verse, perhapsbecause its claims are unremarkable for the male guild of biblical scholars (Zimmerli1979b: 248; Eichrodt 1970: 130-1; Cooke 1985: 104; Greenberg 1983: 176). If anycomment is made, it involves one of the commentator’s favourite moves: repeat aspeculative point made by another, but now as a thoroughly verifiable statement. In thiscase it involves a loose etymological connection with an Egyptian (!) word,
,perhaps a dubious picture, and thereby it is established that scribes would carry theirhorns somewhere in the nether regions.
Thanks to Stefanie Schön for this observation when she responded to an early versionof this chapter presented to a seminar at the Centre for Gender Research at theUniversity of Oslo, 15 October 2010.
Or, as Greenberg unwittingly and ambiguously puts it, ‘a scribe’s kit’ (Greenberg 1983:176). Cooke’s ‘a writer’s inkhorn’ (Cooke 1985: 104) and Zimmerli’s ‘a scribe’sinstrument’ comes close to such a scrotal wordplay (Zimmerli 1979b: 224). For Zimmerli,the English is far more telling than the German ‘original’, which has ‘Schreibzeug desSchreibers’ (Zimmerli 1979a: 188).